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Genealogy, Who Do You Think You Are

Updated on May 17, 2019
ethel smith profile image

With a keen interest in British politics this writer is never afraid to share her opinion

Example of a Family Tree

Who Do You Think You Are? UK Television

The UK has been running a rather interesting programme for the last few years. It is titled Who Do You Think You Are?. The programme has some celebrity, or other, tracing back their family history, in order to track down their roots and find out just who they really are.

Some celebrities find interesting, strange or sad facts about their ancestry whilst others find little to write home about. It does make for interesting watching. It is usually aired on the BBC.

If you get the chance to watch this programme try to catch a couple of episodes, to get a proper feel for the programme. Each programme usually lasts around an hour and will follow the celebrity as, he or she, meets with previously unknown family members. The person will also travel up and down the country, which of course is made easier if you are filming such a show.

Finding out just who you really are may not be quite so easy. However with on-line research facilities available these days discovering who is part of your your family tree, is easier than it used to be.

The first steps could be checking out the Census records, for England and the UK, which are now on-line for certain years.

The programme has spawned a magazine

Researching your family tree.

I decided to try and look back at some of my family history for various reasons. My Father, born in 1914, lost his mother when he was only around 3 years old. His Father remarried a couple of years later but my Dad did not join this new family. This man, my Grandfather, was lost at sea in the thirties when all hands were lost on his ship

So this is some of what I wanted to discover:-

  • Who my Grandfather married.
  • His second wife's family name, that is her maiden name.
  • If there are any surviving family members, who may have been my Dad's half brothers or the like.
  • When my Grandfather died.
  • What was the name of the vessel.

When I was younger nobody was every really interested in such details. These days Genealogy is popular and many people, like me, are fascinated by this hidden past. I lost my parents before I was 24 and so by the time I wanted to find out some family history there were few surviving members to ask.

  • My first bit of advice then is make sure that you ask questions about your family history whilst you still have family members and whilst their memories can be relied upon.
  • Secondly make sure that you store documents such as Birth, Death and Marriage certificates safely but where you can remember that they are.
  • Next make sure that family photographs are identified. Looking through old tins full of photographs can be confusing and may not really help. Babies all look similar unless you were their Mum for instance. Try writing in pencil on the back of old photos details such as the person's name, age at the time and relationship to you.
  • When you use research sites on-line be careful about charges. Most charge you credits. 50 credits may not be 50p though but could actually be more like £3.
  • Some sites will give you access to your documents, once found, for a year. Your credits will also be valid for that year. However, some of the cheaper sites will need you to use your credits within one week. These sites may at first glance seem cheaper but probably will not be in the long run. Exercise caution. You could find out that you have paid a fair bit without finding any relevant information.
  • Where possible print copies of Census pages, that you have paid to access. This hard copy will be useful if your computer crashes and valuable documents are lost.
  • Cheap Genealogy software, which will enable you to record your information, can be useful. A basic copy of Family Tree will be fine but make sure that you back-up your information. Otherwise, if everything you have discovered is in on your computer, you could easily lose it all.
  • A Dictaphone or similar could be handy. Ask family members questions re your family history or their past, in general. Taping such conversations will enable you to concentrate on what you are trying to find out.

Obvious things can make researching your family history a little more difficult. For, example, my Mum's maiden name was Smith, which is the most common surname in England. If your family have travelled around this can add complications. However, the task will not be impossible if you allow enough time. Genealogy can be very time consuming and can be costly. It does not have to cost a fortune but you need to be careful.

In the UK details of the Census are revealed on-line after a period of time. It is already possible to view the 1911 census on some websites, whilst others will be offering access soon. Data protection, I guess, means that Census details are only revealed on-line after a set period of time. These restrictions may be less in other countries.

Remember to utilize local libraries and parish records to compliment the Census records you have found.

What I have discovered, so far.

So far I have only spent a limited amount of time researching my family tree. I have learned some information, but not exactly what I am looking for.

I have discovered that my Dad's family were originally from the south of England. They were actually from March in Cambridge-shire. Looking at the Census for certain periods of time in the 1800s it is clear that they came as a family or group of family members to my hometown. As builders, and the like, I guess they came to work here.

Of interest to me was a man who it seems is perhaps my Great, Grand-Fathers Brother. This man has the same name as my brother. As, years ago, our family always used family names to christen their children with, it now seems clear why my brother was called by this name.

Looking at the Census records enables you to:-

  • Look at the address
  • See how many rooms this home had
  • See who lived there, their ages, work and marital status and occupations
  • Look at the signature of the head of the household

One thing that stood out for me, on the family records that I checked, was just how many people in my family were widowed or orphaned. Slightly worrying as it could mean that I come from bad stock. However, just like Billy Connolly, I am now too old to die young. Joking aside though I guess that period of time was full of premature deaths. Wars, infections, disease and poverty killed many.

Some people research their family history in the hope that they will discover exciting secrets, notorious relatives or links to fame and fortune. Well it would be interesting to discover something like that but I am happy with what I have already unearthed and will be satisfied if, and when, I solve my last few family puzzles.

I know that this world is smaller than we think, and the UK even smaller, but it is also very strange. When I was researching my family history, having seen that we came from March, I was curious to read a little about that town. Looking on the Internet it would seem that one of its most famous citizens was a man called Rex Tucker. He was a British Television director. Unusual name isn't it?.

Well guess what my 90 odd year old neighbour is called?

Yes, you've guessed it, Rex Tucker.

Small world? It would seem that it is positively tiny.

Too Old To Die Young, a bit like me.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2009 Ethel Smith


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    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 

      6 years ago from Northeast Ohio

      Great hub, Ethel. We have the same show here in America, which premieres the newest season next week. It used to be on NBC, and then it was canceled. Two years ago, TLC brought it over here. It's a great show. Before my mother died last spring, she wanted my brother to do our family tree to find her grandparents and work on it. Now my future SIL is doing the same via DNA on her father's side.

    • Homeplace Series profile image

      William Leverne Smith 

      7 years ago from Hollister, MO

      Thanks for the neat family history related Hub! I love to share family stories, both in non-fiction and in fiction venues. ;-)

      Keep up the good work! ;-)

    • michabelle profile image


      9 years ago

      Great hub! My family lived in the Virginia mountains for a couple centuries after arriving in America from the Isle of Man. It's so much fun to find to unravel the past.

    • ethel smith profile imageAUTHOR

      Ethel Smith 

      9 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

      Yes as usual we do not know what we have until its gone :( Thanks for the visit

    • GClark profile image


      9 years ago from United States

      Enjoyed your article. Genealogy has been an interest of mine for some time and recently published a HUB myself on the subject. Like another reader commented, I believe It's too bad we didn't have the opportunity to question surviving relatives and get info first hand. Have always loved mysteries and have equated genealogy research to being a detective. Ironically, at one point when I came to a dead end on something I ended up utilizing a genealogist in Scotland who was a retired Scotland Yard Detective - he obtained some very useful info that supplied additional answers. GC

    • Rebecca E. profile image

      Rebecca E. 

      10 years ago from Canada

      up so much, great info about the online sites, I didn't know about the credits.

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 

      11 years ago from East Coast, United States

      ethel, too bad we so often decide to look into our family tree after we are too old to ask our grandparents for information. I managed to find a family tree that my father claimed was lost. It went back centuries and I sure wish I had located it before my father died. It can be so interesting!

    • ethel smith profile imageAUTHOR

      Ethel Smith 

      11 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

      Oo we could be related Amanda lol

    • Amanda Severn profile image

      Amanda Severn 

      11 years ago from UK

      Hi Ethel, this is a great hub, and a fascinating subject. The whole subject is one I've become very lazy about, because my big brother has made such a study of it in all directions that I only need to ask him, and my questions will be answered! We had some family in Hull BTW. My Dad's great uncle was a missionary in Shanghai, and his two daughters settled in Hull when they returned to Britain.

    • ethel smith profile imageAUTHOR

      Ethel Smith 

      11 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

      I know Duchess everything is so time consuming. Thanks for the input on this hub :)

    • profile image

      Duchess OBlunt 

      11 years ago

      Great Hub. I did much of this years ago and have a wonderful history on the one side. Got stuck real quickly on the other. The War, Orphans and sending those orphan kids to Canada have created several issues. Both regarding documentation and in getting the people involved to talk about it.

      Makes me a bit itchy to get back to it.

      Time. I need more time.

    • ethel smith profile imageAUTHOR

      Ethel Smith 

      11 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

      Thanks guys it would seem we are all inquisitive these days about our past. Perhaps everyone should create a hub about what they have discovered?

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 

      11 years ago from London, UK

      This is a great hub and yes I am very interested in my ancesters but time and money hasn't got me far. Thank you for sharing and writing an informative hub.

    • suziecat7 profile image


      11 years ago from Asheville, NC

      I once attempted to trace my family tree and got as far as my great great grandmother who was born in Quebec. It ended there. Interesting Hub - thanks.

    • Ralph Deeds profile image

      Ralph Deeds 

      11 years ago from Birmingham, Michigan

      Great job Ethel! I wish I'd read it before my grandparents and parents died and taken the time to quiz them and get some of our family history down on paper.

    • RNMSN profile image

      Barbara Bethard 

      11 years ago from Tucson, Az

      this is great ethel!! here in the states the big deal is same thing but online instead of on the tv...we hve bbc on direct tv so I will try and catch a few shows. I have some of my tree from both sides of my family but not all...I went to the public library about ten yrs back and searched through the census tomes but I had no idea what I was doing or where to look...that's why the bbc show and the works for walks you through the steps, worth the $ to a lot of people/those old census records books ugh all musty and heavy and pages felt funny/gross! great hub!!


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